By MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN
Children’s Defense Fund
This year’s Women’s History Month sees our nation moving forward and including women at all levels of authority including Kamala Harris as our vice president. President Biden has nominated other extraordinary women for cabinet and sub-cabinet positions.
Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, former Congressional Black Caucus chair, has been nominated to become the second Black woman Secretary of Housing and Urban Development following Patricia Roberts Harris. Isabel Guzman has been nominated to lead the Small Business Administration at a critical time when businesses led by women and people of color have been disproportionally hurt by the pandemic. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress, is President Biden’s nominee to lead the Interior Department. She would be the first Native American cabinet secretary to oversee the department that includes the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Dr. Cecilia Rouse has been confirmed as the first African American Council of Economic Advisers chair. Katherine Tai, nominated to become U.S. Trade Representative, would be the first Asian American and woman of color in that role. And Linda Thomas-Greenfield has been confirmed as the second Black woman U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, following Susan Rice, who now directs the White House Domestic Policy Council.
Other huge glass ceilings shattered include Avril Haines becoming the first woman director of National Intelligence and Dr. Janet Yellen, our first woman Federal Reserve chair, who has now become our first woman Treasury Secretary. Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, the first women governors in their states, are Secretaries of Energy and Commerce. And for the first time, women constitute the entire White House senior communications team. President Biden also has created a White House Gender Policy Council to help coordinate policy impacting women and girls and bring our nation closer to full gender equality and inclusion.
Gender representation is not the only way the new administration is moving forward. General Lloyd Austin is the first Black Secretary of Defense; California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra would be the first Latino to lead the Department of Health and Human Services; Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is the first openly gay cabinet member; Dr. Miguel Cardona, Connecticut’s first Latino education commissioner, who grew up speaking Spanish as a first language in his Puerto Rican family, is now the Secretary of Education; Alejandro Mayorkas, whose family fled Romania and the Nazis during World War II and then Havana after the Cuban Revolution, is our first Latino and first immigrant to lead the Department of Homeland Security; and Michael S. Regan would be the first Black man and second African American to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Other federal nominees include assistant secretary of health Dr. Rachel Levine, the first openly transgender person nominated for a high federal position.
It’s hard to be what you can’t see, and our children have not always seen government leaders at the highest levels who look like them and come from similar backgrounds and share similar experiences and who are able to make fair decisions reflecting our diverse population. This is the kind of representation all of us need and deserve.
Marian Wright Edelman is founder and president emerita of the Children’s Defense Fund whose mission is “Leave No Child Behind.” For more information, visit https://www.childrensdefense.org.